Strong earthquake hits Sichuan province in western China

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.5 has struck a mountainous region in western China, seismologists say. Only few details were immediately available.

The earthquake, which struck at 9:19 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered in the Jiuzhaigou national park in northern Sichuan province, about 101 kilometer (62 miles) southwest of Longnan in neighboring Gansu province..

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude of the earthquake at 6.5 and said it struck at a depth of just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles). China’s Earthquake Network Center (CENC) put the preliminary magnitude at 7.0 with a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

There was no immediate word on damage or casualties from Tuesday’s earthquake, but buildings in various parts of China are extremely vulnerable to earthquake shaking, and even light earthquakes have caused serious damage and casualties in the past.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 87,000 people in the area may have felt “moderate” to “very strong” shaking. It said there is a low likelihood of significant casualties but said “significant damage is likely and the disaster is potentially is potentially widespread.”

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